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“Yes, I must admit it become somewhat megalomaniacal.” Because of his gigantic, tilting staircase Triomf for Bosch Parade ’22, we already knew that architect/constructor Rob van Dam loves to make a grand gesture. His Zznake, a huge, writhing snake with which he uses during Bosch Parade ’24 to depict the danger of conspiracy theories, is even bigger. “This is as big as it gets.”

Over 15 metres long. A diameter of about four metres. And weighing almost 1,000 kilos. Zznake is immense. Rob: “Yes, it has turned out quite bigger than I initially planned. But as a result, Zznake manages to convince, its sheer size emphasises the importance of the message I want to convey.”

That message is a topical one: beware of conspiracy theories. Rob: “I think these are today’s demons, the greatest danger of our time. People shout more and more and listen less and less. There are hardly any dialogues, mostly monologues. Especially during the coronavirus, ideas about rule, politics and the other have been radicalised, crawled into people’s heads like sly snakes. That idea, of a monstrous snake poisoning people with vague assumptions – like Medusa in Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, that’s what I show with Zznake.” 

The idea first took shape in the computer. Rob: “I used it to work out Zznake in construction drawings, so that we could have everything laser-cut and it could be put together like a kit. And I used it to calculate the water displacement, so that it just floats on the water and the silhouette remains visible. That is quite a challenge, such a colossus displaces tons of water and has to keep turning to move forward.”

That turning is done with a hydraulic motor that drives a worm screw. Rob: “This is one of those Archimedes screws, like the one in the Zuiderpark. The spinning movement makes Zznake wriggle and move forward. In the calculations, everything seemed to work, but it is and remains a work of art; so we won’t know for sure until we start testing soon. So I incorporated a whisper motor just to be sure. So we have a plan B in addition to a plan A. And a plan C.” 

Not just the propulsion, Zznake‘s size also creates challenges. Rob: “Yes, it has to be able to pass under bridges, of course. The lowest bridge is 3.25 metres; I had calculated that Zznake should achieve that with a 1-metre draft. But now the fins have become slightly wider again… We will test that too this week, I’m sure it will be fine.”

To enable that testing, Zznake will be assembled in the Garden of Earthly Delights. Rob: “That will be quite a spectacle. Moving those huge parts requires big trucks and cranes. And then everything has to be coupled, to see whether it is structurally strong enough, watertight and safe. “Yes, I must admit it become somewhat megalomaniacal.”